MLS kick-started U.S. revival

GEORGE GROSS

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

The Americans have an added incentive heading into tonight's Round 2 match against Uruguay at the World Cup Under-20 soccer at BMO Field -- if they ever needed one.

You see, American athletes give the proverbial 110% whenever the honour of the Star Spangled Banner is at stake.

Don Garber, the highly successful commissioner of Major League Soccer, is hopeful that the Yankee 11 will make it to the final at Toronto's BMO Field.

"I'll be pretty busy for the next few days," said the commissioner.

"David Beckham is arriving on the 13th, then we have a press conference with him and the Los Angeles Galaxy, the team he will play for. However, if the U.S. team makes it to the final, you can bet on it that I will be there."

Garber, who has been following the World Cup schedule, is very impressed with what he has seen.

When I asked him directly what he thought of the tournament, the commissioner said:

"I think it has been fantastic. Judging by the filled up stadia one must think that everybody in Canada is a soccer fan.

"In my opinion, the standard and quality of play has been outstanding.

"These World Cup games also have an impact on soccer in the United States.

"The performances in the U.S. have improved tremendously, thanks to the young talent available.

"We keep an eye on these youngsters and that's why most of our teams have scouts at the tournament in Canada.

"I hope that several of these young players will wind up playing for our league teams."

He said it all with the ability of a born diplomat.

But, in the end, he didn't forget to give his league a pat on the back "Let's be honest," he said in a subdued voice.

"Before we established Major League Soccer, the American Under-20 team was not as successful in these World Cup tournaments.

"With MLS in existence and showing the way, youngsters now have a goal to aim for."

The MLS commissioner is not the only one who is impressed with the overall standard in the Under-20 World Cup.

Bobby Nicol, former star midfielder of Toronto City, Hibernians of Scotland and the Scottish Under-21 national team in the 1960s, said:

"I think the standard of play in the World Cup is excellent. The Canadian team didn't play that well, nor has Brazil. But there is a lot of talent in the tournament."

Too bad some Canadian players failed to show any.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

Oshawa lawyer Terry Kelly, Canada's biggest soccer fan, flew to Edmonton to witness Canada's exit and said the team just wasn't good enough. "Their biggest problem was they were waiting for the ball to come to them instead of going for it. I guess we just don't have the players" ... Former Leafs, including captain George Armstrong, Eddie Shack, Dick Duff and Brian Conacher attended Monday's celebration of superstar Red Kelly's 80th birthday at the Rosedale Golf Club. Kelly's wife, Andra, arranged the surprise party attended by the couple's four children and seven grandchildren ... Ralph Mellanby, former award-winning executive producer of Hockey Night in Canada, has completed a book featuring such personalities as Bill Hewitt, Ron Harrison, Don Goodwin, Danny Gallivan and many others.


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